Alice Cooper – or rather his alter ego, Vincent Furnier – is sixty nine. Let that sink in. It’s worth mentioning if only because ‘rockers’ a third the man’s age would have trouble coming up with something quite as rocking as the new Alice Cooper album, Paranormal.
Opening up with the pomp metal bombast of the title track is a good move; Sounding not unlike prime-time Savatage, this track will open a few eyes to be sure, whilst letting Alice’s hardcore fans know that the man isn’t letting up any. It’s a wonderful way to kick things off, and easily this reviewer’s favourite Cooper cut to have been fermented this century.
Dead Flies is pure, classic Cooper; a rollin’ and tumblin’ blues rocker with the usual dose of mordant wit but with a neat comment on modern mores to go along with the dino riffage. Another marvellous track.
Fireball is a sleek slice of electro rock that doesn’t quite follow through on the promise of the opening brace, but that can’t be said of the hulking Paranoiac Personality. A sizzling remembrance of Alice at his early-to-mid seventies best, it’s a song, replete with Psycho sound effects, that will surely come to be known as a latter-day cornerstone of the Cooper back catalogue. Classic in every sense, it’s worth the price of admission on it’s own.
Next up is another blues, Fallen in Love, but this is given added weight by the presence of none other than ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons within its grooves; his solo on the outro will again take the discerning (or at least aged) listener back to the mid seventies, and if this album isn’t actually an exercise in nostalgia, it’s still these little ‘classic’ signposts that make listening a little more intently worthwhile. Dynamite Road is, as it’s Springsteenian title might suggest, a hard rocking tale of rival roadrats heading to oblivion, full of tales of Skynyrd-fuelled perfidy and more than a hint of Charlie Daniels in its storytelling flair.
Private Public Breakdown doesn’t breathe the same rarefied air as its predecessors, though it doesn’t actively stink, and the horn-driven Holy Water is similarly underwhelming, despite Alice’s spirited delivery which will again bring back fond memories of mid seventies guillotines and Muppet Show starring roles.
Penultimate track Rats ups the ante but it’s essentially a meat n’spuds rocker, so it’s up to the slightly sinister The Sound of A to end the album on a much higher plane. Floydian in essence, with a big wedge of John Lennon on the side, it’s really the only time on the album that you can feel the presence of producer Bob Ezrin; It’s a good presence, though, and The Sound of A is easily the most interesting track on the record. More of the same next time please!
Paranormal is a double album, and the second disc contains perhaps the most interesting material in the package. Tracks one and two on disc two, the sleazy Genuine American Girl and the heads down rocker You and All Your Friends are performed by Furnier with the original Alice Cooper Band, and very nice they are too, successfully capturing the old band’s fire and mischief and actually making you wish they’d had a bit of involvement in disc one… the final half dozen tracks featured find Cooper and his modern band caught in action recently and underline the fact that most of you already probably know that, despite being in his sixth decade of heavy metal thunder, Cooper – the man and the b(r)and – are still a byword for high octane thrills in the live arena.
Plenty to chew on, then, and certainly enough to make this worth a punt. Let’s hope a few of these new tracks make it into the set when Cooper tours later this year…
Paranormal is released today.